Monday, August 31, 2009

The Little-Ease

Outside of the Bible, the best depiction of the natural state of man that I have ever read comes from the French existentialist Albert Camus and his brilliant novel called The Fall.


Through the main character of Jean-Baptiste, Camus explores the effect of guilt on man. “The idea that comes most naturally to man, as if from his very nature,” he writes, “is the idea of his own innocence.” The implication being that every man is guilty, while only seeking to continually convey a state of innocence.


For a while, Jean-Baptiste “succeeds” in his life as most other men–being popular, learned, athletic and handsome. Until he fails to save a drowning girl one late night on the Seine, his life is “bursting with vanity” and “satisfied with nothing.“ Camus writes, “a single sentence will suffice for modern man: he fornicated and read the papers.”


After “the fall” on that late night, Jean-Baptiste is overcome by an irrepressible admission of guilt. In failing to do what he knows he should, his awakened conscience is so flooded with guilt that despair overtakes his entire existence.


The admitting of his guilt is an admission into the little-ease.


The little-ease was a unique torture device that was devised in the Middle Ages. In a cell “not high enough to stand up in, nor yet wide enough to lie down in,” explains Camus, “one had to take on an awkward manner and live on the diagonal; sleep was a collapse, and waking a squatting.” As one’s body would stiffen, “the condemned man learned that he was guilty and that innocence consists in stretching joyously.” Therefore, if the little-ease produced any certain effect on its occupant it was an inescapable and unbearable awareness of guilt.


Sadly, Camus’ Jean-Baptiste only confirms the sentence of guilt in the little-ease while offering no way of escape. Men “merely wish to be pitied and encouraged in the course we had chosen,” and any escape from the little-ease is for him only a temporal distraction from an eternal condition. At the end of the novel his character admits, “I haven’t changed my way of life; I continue to love myself and make use of others.” Only now, his motivation and life’s work is to quench the guilt within, to quiet his screaming conscience, to forget (if only momentarily) that he can neither fully rise nor lie without being aware of his trapped and desperate condition.


Imagine, for yourself, life in the little-ease.


Inescapable…

Uncomfortable…

Horrifying…

Dark…

Isolated…

Quiet…

Frightened…

Painful…

Alone…

Hopelessness…

Insanity…


Death.


Have you ever been to the little-ease?


If so, if you’ve ever really felt the crippling, damning effect of the little-ease and then by some strange miracle, some extraordinary occurrence, some unforeseen moment, the door to your little-ease were opened for you and blinding light shown in, and you were delivered, set free and allowed to “stretch joyously”…just imagine that.


Then why, freed soul, to the little-ease would you ever return?

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

The Art of Conversation

One of the most debilitating characteristics of modern evangelicalism is a deficient and repugnant sensitivity to art, most radically epitomized by the vulgarization of rhetoric and music in contemporary worship settings. vis a vis, colloquial preaching and simplistic and pathetic musical scores that aim low and hit their mark. Consciously and unconsciously, evangelicals slaughter transcendent Truth upon the alloyed altar of immanent contemporaneity, thinking that by accommodating culture we can somehow transform culture, when in fact no one and nothing is ever transfigured when beautiful wings are melted so that heav'n borne worshippers plummet to earth. A collateral victim of this Dedalean tragedy is the art of conversation.

Every spoken or written word is a potential Trinity, the synthesis of an invisible conception (Idea), an invisible inspiration (Breath), and an audible expression of the Idea when Breath strikes Flesh (the tongue and lips), and also a potential expression of unconscious Blasphemy or worshipful Adoration. Such is the theology of Incarnation, the Word Made Flesh, when the Invisible Father conceptualized the Word, and the Invisible Spirit impregnated Mary's Flesh to conceive the Word.

Every word proffers two choices to the Speaker, speak of Earth or speak of Heaven. To speak of Earth, the speaker must only speak of Persons or Events, the mainstay of colloquial vulgarity; to speak of Heaven, the speaker must speak of Ideas, ideas that explore the various spheres of Transcendence, the pinnacle sphere of which is Truth.

The next time you converse, analyze and evaluate the content of the conversation, and then ask yourself, "Is it earthly, focused upon persons and events, or is it, if not Heavenly, at least Heavenward, winging its way to Ideas or, better, ascending Beautifully to Truth? Tragically, you will see (and hear) that we consistently fashion waxen wings destined to melt in the heat and light of the Sun, predominantly and consistently summoning our feebler intellectual, emotional, and spiritual aptitudes to contemplate, and speak of, the mundane, wasting our brains and our breath upon the common, thus unconsciously blaspheming the potential holiness of every word. Seldom do we meet the conversationalist who attempts to fashion every word a golden apple in a silver vase, making every word an angel's wing. If we do encounter such an one, we are probably at a loss for words, and that would, ironically, be most beneficial to ourselves and others. Still Silence is better than a Fast Fall.

The Word said this. "Every idle word that men shall speak, they shall give account thereof in the Day of Judgment; for by thy words thou shalt be justified, and by thy words thou shalt be condemned."

How, and of what, did He speak?

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

My thoughts, but feathers peripheral

My thoughts are but feathers peripheral,

Borne on a delicate wing,

Fragile in flight,

Yet sure of the Might

Of the Wind!